As they say:
words create worlds.
So does the word “problem”! In the continuous improvement world the word “problem” is used frequently. It is something that needs to be solved. It is a gap that needs to be closed. Let’s see what the word “problem” in everyday language means:
matter or situation regarded as unwelcome or harmful and needing to be dealt with and overcome.
Do you see the problem with the word “problem”? A “problem” is something we do not want to have. We need to get rid of it as soon as possible!
I suspect that many managers like the idea of continuous improvement because they want less problems!
Ok, so what is the problem than?
Well, if you strive for continuous improvement you need something to work on continuously! What kind of world do you think you are creating if you have people work on things that we do not want to have, on “problems”? I bet everybody gets really enthusiastic…
How many “problems” do we need?
Continuous Improvement gets defined as:
- everyday improvement
- everybody improvement
- everywhere improvement
So how many “problems” do we need when everybody needs to improve just about everywhere? Maybe one per person to start with?
What about doing it every day? Where will the spirit, the energy, the stamina come from if you have to work on stuff that you do not want? No chance!
What will it take for management to start loving more “problems”?
We need a new vocabulary
If we want to get continuous improvement off the ground and make it really fly we need to start using different words; we need to start talking about different topics.
I think the most important topic to start talking about is about our dreams. I know, that is not so comfortable for most of us. It is not our culture to do so… But what if…
There is nothing more powerful than a group of
people taking action towards a shared dream!
So, lets start!
- What is your dream?
- What is the dream of your co-worker?
- What is the purpose of the organisation you work for?
- Why did you choose this organisation to work for in the first place?
- What could it be in 4; 40 or 400 years from now?
- What would perfect look like?
What is the common theme here for you and the people you work with? Can you verbalize a shared dream?
I think this is an important lesson we can learn from Martin Luther King:
Maybe the most important role of a leader is to give words to a shared dream.
There is no need to wait. Be brave, be a leader!